Publisher’s note: This column is what brought me in the door at this newspaper 20 years ago, when the owners at the time graciously offered me a humor column. I wrote about 150 of these, and part of our celebration throughout our 25th anniversary year, we’re re-printing some of the favorites. This “SUWAT” was originally published in February 2012.
Our move to Arizona from Indiana 39 years ago was a nervous event, as we would be the first of the Indiana Bruns clan to pack up and head west. I expected Arizona to look like the landscape from Wile E. Coyote and Roadrunner cartoon, so my hopes were pinned on what kind of dirt bike or mini-bike I would be assigned upon arrival. I just assumed that all children were let loose in the desert to embark on their own ACME adventures in the wide-open pastel landscapes.
Upon arriving, some of us were a bit surprised to find the city to be just that: a city. No flat, barren plateaus or cloud-high spires with teetering slices of shale on top. No little bowls of bird seed (FREE!) in the middle of the highway and definitely no open roads of solitude for mini-bike romps.
It was pretty, although I didn’t appreciate it at the time. It would take many years of exploring this vast state, and a degree in Geography to totally understand what we’re dealing with here: one of the most unique states in the nation.
When I was in college years ago, I met a gentleman at JFK airport and we talked about our respective homes. When I explained I lived in Arizona he sneered and made a snide comment about the heat, closing out his argument with: “Sweaty, sticky and bored – sounds great.”
When I told him I lived in Flagstaff and that it snows where I live, he didn’t believe me. In fact, the more I tried to explain the concept of elevation and temperature variance, the angrier he seemed to get. When I told him Arizona had both desert and tundra, he became visibly upset, as if I had just stolen something from him; and I like to think I did, because I know he later found out I was right.
Since this all happened in the day before smart phones, there was no way to whip out the gadget of truth and blast him right between the eyes with both barrels of reason. We parted ways and I had to hope that someday he would watch Jeopardy! when Alex asks, “The annual snowfall of 100.3 inches ranks this northern Arizona city at number 8 in the top 10 snowiest cities in the nation.”
What is Flagstaff, Alex?
Since February 14 is the 105th birthday of our great state, here are some more interesting Arizona facts:
1. Arizona is the only state that has all four of North America’s deserts: Sonoran, Mohave, Chihuahuan and Great Basin.
2. South Mountain Park is the largest city park in the world at 16,000+ acres.
3. Marcos de Niza is believed to be the first European explorer to traipse through Arizona, looking for the mythical Seven Cities of Gold in 1539.
4. The Morenci Mine is the largest copper-producing mine in North America, and Arizona leads the nation in copper production.
5. The largest rose bush in the world is in Tombstone, at 120 years-old, it covers 8600 square feet.
6. The Arizona Cardinals are the oldest continuously run franchise in the National Football League, starting as the Chicago Cardinals in 1898.
7. There are eight basic biomes (ecosystem / climates) in the world: Tundra, Coniferous Forest, Deciduous Forest, Desert, Grasslands, Chaparral, Mountains, and Rainforests. Arizona is the only state to have examples of all eight.
8. Phoenix has some humble roots, starting as a hay camp for Fort McDowell in 1866.
9. Arizona has more parks and national monuments than any other state, covering roughly 25% of the area.
10. President William Howard Taft was ready to declare Arizona the 48th state on February 12, 1912. Since that was Lincoln’s birthday, and the 13th was considered superstitiously unfit, the 14th was chosen, forever branding the state with its identity as the “Valentine State.”
— Greg can be reached:email@example.com.